Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Donna Noble, Nerys
Summary: The Doctor investigates one of the most serious time anomalies he's ever encountered, right here on Earth.
Word Count (chapter): 1913
His companion's name was on his lips the moment the Doctor's eyes opened. "Donna? Donnaaa!" he called as he sprung into a sitting position, startling the people surrounding him. "Where's Donna?" Glancing around in a panic, he tried to push himself to his feet, but was held down by a woman kneeling next to him.
"Sir! Don't get up. You've had a nasty turn." She placed a calming hand on his arm. "It's all right. My name is Tyla. I'm a nurse. Now, let me look at you." She tried to peer into his eyes, but he pushed her away.
“No! Let me up. Where’d she go? She was right here. I fell on top of her.” He tried to twist to look around.
“Sir, please! Please, just lie back and relax.” Placing a firm hand on his chest, she tried to coax him into lying back down.
"I've got to find Donna." He was about to brush Tyla away again when his attention was caught by the man standing behind her, his bright blue skin glistening in the artificial light. "A Crespallion? What’s a Crespallion doing here?" But the brightly-lit dome far above the man’s head answered his question before he voiced it. He was in the Galleria on the second moon orbiting Innusail; he couldn’t mistake the sparkling mosaics on the ceiling for anywhere else. He’d been heading for the food court in search of what he’d been told were the best chips to be found in the galaxy when a sudden dizziness had fogged his head and he’d toppled to the ground. But he’d also been in the O2 Arena, Donna on his elbow and backstage passes in hand, hadn’t he? Grimacing, he rubbed the back of his neck. “Something’s not right.”
“Yes, but we’ve called emergency services and they should be here soon.” She shrugged off her jacket and laid it over his chest and shoulders. “Please lie back and calm down.”
“What?” The Doctor pulled the jacket off. “What’s this for?”
“You’re dangerously hypothermic. And your heart. I didn’t have time to check thoroughly, but your heart rate is elevated and there's an arrhythmia…”
“That’s because I’m not human. You don't know what to listen for.” Balling up the jacket, he thrust it into her hands and jumped up while she fumbled with it. There was a lingering vertigo, but he managed to mask it to appear stable and well. "See? Fit as a fiddle." He flashed her a brilliant grin, and the onlookers began to disperse since the object of their interest no longer appeared to be in distress.
The nurse popped up in front of him, clutching the jacket to her chest. "You were right in front of me when you fell. Something caused that. Human or not, I know you're not well."
"Miss Tyla," the Doctor began, stuffing his hands in his trouser pockets and bobbing a bow at her, "I thank you for your solicitousness, but I already know what happened. I suffered an aevifurcular syncope.”
"A what?" She unfurled her jacket and slipped it on. "Don't make up medical terms."
"I'm not. It's more of a technical term, actually. A disorientation due to the disjunction of two divaricated timelines. Common among time-sensitives. Well,” he drawled, “the effect is common. Timeline divarication isn’t common at all. Quite rare, in fact." He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and began scanning around. "I wasn't here a minute ago. I was on Earth. Well, not a minute ago. A minute ago, I was here, but this isn't the original timeline, and in that, I was on Earth." He held the screwdriver to his ear, his brow furrowed as he listened to the data it had collected.
"Now don’t worry. You’re going to be fine," Tyla soothed him in a tone she reserved for calming deranged patients. She grasped him firmly by the elbow and coaxed him toward a nearby bench. "Come and sit a spell, won't you? Just to make sure you're well. The paramedics will check you over and I'm sure there's nothing wrong."
"Ah, yes, paramedics." Slipping out of her hold, he caught her hand and kissed it, then backed away a step. "Thank you again, Miss Tyla, but I must be on my way. I've got to find my friend."
"Doctor. I'm the Doctor." Flashing her a grateful smile, he spun and disappeared into the crowd.
The Doctor hadn't wanted to leave the area in which he'd woken up, but there was no way he would wait where paramedics could get their hands on him. It wasn't as if they'd be able to diagnose or treat him, and all they'd do is prevent him from figuring out what had happened whilst poking him with far too many sharp instruments. Thus, he bulled his way through the crowd in the direction of the TARDIS, rubbing the crystal of the screwdriver in his hand with his thumb.
The readings on the instrument were normal, no anomalies in either space or time in this vaulted shopping mall. This was exactly what he expected: a normal day in a normal place. The problem was in his own head. He had definitely been here alone in the Galleria, but he also remembered being at a Spice Girls concert with Donna, though that was a distant memory, almost as if it had happened to someone else. He spied an empty bench and trotted over to it, sitting down to think hard and try to fix the memory in his mind.
What did he remember about Donna? They had been standing in a service tunnel, chatting as they waited to be allowed backstage after a truly brilliant concert. Before that… The Doctor hunched forward, his hands cupped over his nose and mouth, trying to concentrate on the memories and the timeline. Many adventures with her, big and small, floated through his mind, though they almost felt like stories that someone else had told him, and when he tried to concentrate on them, far stronger memories of them, from this new timeline and not involving Donna, intruded.
There was that investigation into Adipose Industries with Penny, who'd complained the entire time after he'd loosed her from the chair she’d been tied up in and then pulled her into the supply closet when he'd gone after the main computer core. When it was all over, she couldn't run off fast enough. After a visit to Empoleth in 3429, he'd landed at Pompeii with Mithis, who'd said he wanted to explore the universe but, when brought face-to-face with his distant ancestors, was barely interested and had reacted with disdain for those he considered such primitives. The Doctor had successfully defeated the Pyroviles by inverting the energy converter and triggering the volcano, but not before having to weather a condemning stare from his companion. Thus, after returning the man to Empoleth, he had travelled to the Ood Sphere alone, but only now, with an alternate memory with Donna to compare to, did he realise that he had left Caecilius and his family to die under tonnes of hot ash; there'd been no one to break through his wall of anger and regret and plead with him to save someone.
After freeing the Ood from their captivity, he'd remained alone through a number of journeys, meeting many people but not finding anyone he cared to travel the universe with. And now, with a deep pang of regret, he realised he had never met Agatha Christie, because there'd been no one to take to a 1920s cocktail party. His memory of the evening lay dim in his mind, entirely eclipsed by the solid image of the author of the acclaimed The Murder of Roger Ackroyd dying at a high-society social after publishing only five novels. He wondered if anyone in Lady Eddison’s household had survived the vespiform’s rage.
The most disturbing thing about these juxtaposed timelines was that the switch between them had been seamless. Though he had lost consciousness, he found that as he explored both the current timeline and the now-alternate history backwards, there were no anomalies, nothing that could explain the sudden shift in reality. Not that he expected any of the races in this shopping mall to be time-sensitive, but no one here seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary. This was not likely a natural occurrence, but if it was artificial, the precision of the shift suggested fearsome temporal technology, on par with that of his lost people, and that was not a comforting thought.
So, it comes down to this, he told himself. Do I try to find out who or what caused this? Or do I try to restore the original timeline? He had to admit to himself that he had no idea where to start looking for a cause or a perpetrator. The instigating event may have occurred a galaxy or a millennium away. Even if he could limit his search to the concert, to his and Donna’s immediate vicinity, there’d been a host of people in that service corridor; he didn't know who they were and had no way of finding them. If the change in history had landed him on a planet in a different galaxy in the far future, who knew where any of those people had ended up? On the other hand, to restore the original timeline, he had to figure out where the two had branched, and that in itself might point him toward who had made the change.
Puffing a heavy sigh, he hesitated to start on this project. Fiddling with time like this could be dangerous, and since there was no longer any Time Lord stricture that dictated which timeline was "right" and had to stand, he could, and probably should, leave well enough alone. However, something in the back of his mind kept whispering that this new reality wasn't what should be. And he really wanted his best mate back.
Propping his elbows on his knees, the Doctor leant heavily forward, his head hanging. Donna, Donna, Donna, he chanted silently to himself, concentrating on holding the now-alternate timeline in place, trying to fix her memory in his mind. He shoved into a dark, shuttered corner his terror that he might lose the timeline and his best mate entirely. Sitting back against the bench, he dug in his pocket until he found a pen and scribbled her name in the palm of his hand. He then drew a rough sketch of her - luckily, this body had come with some artistic skill - and captioned it, "Come get me, Spaceman!" Dropping the pen back in his pocket, he then closed his eyes and concentrated again on the whole of their time together, starting back when he first met her, when she'd suddenly appeared in the TARDIS in her wedding dress due to the machinations of her fiancé and the Racnoss empress. But a stronger clearer memory of the event forced its way to the front: the face that appeared under the veil wasn't Donna's. The bride had been...
"OH!" The Doctor's eyes popped open, and he jumped up with a look of horror on his face, startling the woman who happened to be passing by just at that moment. "Excuse me. Sorry. Sorry!" Pushing past her, he dashed into the crowd, diving around anyone who got in his way as he sprinted for the TARDIS.